Warner Music – 2001 – 47 minutes

Although Catatonia's 'Equally Cursed and Blessed' topped the charts on its release in 1999, it still failed to have the impact the band's previous effort, 'International Velvet', had three years earlier. Where the latter soared, largely due to the keen pop sensibility of singles 'Road Rage' and 'Mulder and Scully', the former plodded. Now, the Welsh quintet is facing something of a battle to reclaim the critical and commercial ground they lost with their last release.

'Paper Scissors Stone' kicks off with 'Godspeed', which, if one is to believe the rumours circulating about the band's interior health ethic, signals the keynote. "I'm as lost as you are," Cerys Matthews bellows in her curiously alluring girly growl, while lush string arrangements add to the poignancy of the lyrics. 'Fuel' sees the band go eco-political while 'Stone by Stone', with its warm intro and solid chorus, was quite rightly chosen as the first single.

Stories have abounded in the music press that Matthews is currently suffering from "anxiety and exhaustion", exacerbated by excessive drinking and smoking. The stories haven't stopped there, however. The band has recently been moved to deny rumours that they are on the verge of splitting up. Whatever the truth is, 'Paper Scissors Stone' is a solid effort. Ultimately, the vocal performance of Matthews is probably the strongest aspect of this album. Maybe she hasn't been smoking and drinking so much after all...

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: Godspeed – Immediate Circle – Fuel – What It Is – Stone By Stone – The Mother Of Misogyny – Is Everybody Here on Drugs? – Imaginary Friend – Shore Leave – Apple Core – Beautiful Loser – Blues Song – village Idiots – Arabian Derby